PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año as the new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff.
In a change of command ceremony at the AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Wednesday, Año replaced Gen. Ricardo Visaya who bowed out of the service after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.
A seasoned intelligence and combat officer, Año was credited for the capture of top communist leaders such as
Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and Andrea Rosal, alleged New People’s Army (NPA) commander and daughter of the late NPA spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal.
The new AFP chief was also implicated in the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, son of press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr., in 2007. But he was later cleared of the charges filed by Burgos’ mother Edita.
A native of San Mateo, Rizal, Año was a cum laude graduate of the PMA “Matikas” Class of 1983.
He took courses in the US Army Intelligence Center and School in Arizona (1993), and in the Israel Counter Terrorism Center (2002).
Año had commanded the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division, the 201st Brigade and the 2nd Infantry Division.
He served briefly as assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence. He became chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from 2012 to 2014.
Año has less than a year to serve as AFP chief before his retirement on October 26, 2017. Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, the AFP vice chief of staff, succeeds Año as the new Army commander.
Duterte said Visaya could choose any government position he wanted. “That is how grateful the nation is to you,” the President said.
In his remarks, Duterte called on the military to help capture drug lords, saying he had given a list of suspects containing more than 4,500 names to the AFP, Congress and the Supreme Court.
“You have a copy, read it. If you have time, find out if the next guy beside you is there in that list. It’s really about 4,500 plus. Remember that they have spread all over the country,” the President said.
Año said the AFP would extend all necessary military capabilities to support the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies in bringing down drug syndicates and eradicating illegal drugs.
He also vowed to fight terrorist groups. “We will not let our people cower in the face of lawlessness and terrorism,” he said in his acceptance speech.
“As your AFP, we will be unwavering and unfaltering in our pursuit of neutralizing every element that desires to inflict fear and harm to innocent citizens. With the guidance of our commander in chief, I shall lead the AFP in [sustaining]focused military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other local and foreign terrorist groups like the Maute Group,” Año added.
The militant youth group Anakbayan condemned Año’s appointment, claiming this would lead to more human rights violations with the continuing implementation of the counterinsurgency campaign “Oplan Bayanihan.”